Effects of State-Level Tobacco Environment on Cigarette Smoking are Stronger Among Those With Individual-Level Risk Factors

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To better understand the impact of the state-level tobacco environment (eg, tobacco control policies, attitudes towards smoking) on cigarette smoking, we examined whether the relationship of state tobacco environments to smoking is modified by individual-level vulnerability factors.


In a nationally representative sample of US adults (N = 34 638), past-year smoking and heavy smoking were examined. State-level tobacco environment was defined by tobacco-related control policies and attitudes, ranging from permissive to restrictive; individual vulnerability was defined by childhood maltreatment and/or parental substance problems. Additive interaction tested differences in state-level tobacco environment effects on smoking and heavy smoking by individual-level vulnerability.


Significant interactions (P values < .01) indicated that the state tobacco environment had the strongest relationship to smoking outcomes among individuals with greatest individual vulnerability. For example, among respondents with childhood maltreatment and parental substance problems, those in states with permissive tobacco environments had 13.3% greater prevalence of smoking than those in restrictive states. Among respondents with neither individual-level risk factor, those in permissive states had 2.8% greater prevalence than those in restrictive states (interaction P value = .0002).


Further restricting states’ smoking environments could help reduce the prevalence of smoking and heavy smoking, particularly among those at increased individual risk in the general population.


This study shows that the protective effect of restrictive state-level tobacco environments on smoking or heavy smoking was stronger among those especially vulnerable due to individual-level risk factors (parental substance problems, childhood maltreatment). Thus, public health campaigns to influence attitudes towards smoking or legislation to strengthen tobacco control could have a broad effect, particularly impacting those with vulnerability to smoking, which may help decrease smoking prevalence and reduce the massive public health burden of tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.

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